Parishioners attend Talk series at Trent University
by The Rev’d Glenn Empey, Director, Trent Spiritual Affairs and parish priest
In the 1850’s, Henry Budd, the first indigenous clergy in the Anglican Church, made a plea for an indigenous Bishop for the First Nations in the lands that would become Canada. It was not until 2007 that this was realized when The Right Reverend Mark MacDonald became the first National Indigenous Bishop for the Anglican Church of Canada.
During his series of Talks at Trent University 2-3 February 2016, Bishop Mark related how, in the early days there was a positive relationship, sense of cooperation, and respect between the settlers in the land and the people who were indigenous. He noted how this was evident in the words of the Constitutional Act of 1791 which guaranteed significant rights for the original peoples of the lands. (The Constitutional Act of 1791 is one of the foundational documents of the nation that became Canada.)
Over the course of the following century, this positive relationship was eroded by a tainted world-view that broke down the positive relationship that had previously existed. Although it has only been recently, through the Final Report and Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that the existence, truth and impact of these harmful policies have been recognized by a wider Canadian population, they had had a devastating impact on the First Peoples of Canada for years– particularly during the late 1800’s into the following century. The Residential Schools examples are the visible tip of the iceberg of a mind-set that brought relationships between the people of Canada to where they are today.
Bishop Mark, who was raised in an indigenous community in Minnesota and whose father acted on behalf of those First Nations as a “Treaty Rights” lawyer, has the insight of that first-hand experience out of which he speaks. In addition, he served for several years in the Diocese of Navajoland in the south-west United States. He then served for ten years, as the Episcopal Bishop of Alaska.
He spoke during his Talks about the world-view that led to the rips in the human fabric of the lands. He spoke eloquently about how it is through this recognition that churches today can engage in an act of repentance through which they can begin to see and acknowledge how they had mis-read things. From there, by seeing the reality, as through the eyes of a child, he believes there is hope for a turning of ways –which is what repentance is– to begin again anew in a new direction. He suggested looking at things as if the children of residential schools had been ones own children. That is seeing it all through the eyes of a child.
He says, “When I go to a town in isolated parts of Canada where there was a residential school, the first thing people ask is for me to go with them to the cemetery to offer prayers. And I do.” After a pause he asks, “Just think about this: how many schools do you know that have cemeteries attached to them?”
Still, given what he sees beginning now, Bishop Mark expressed, throughout his Talks, a deep sense of hope about how an owned attitude of repentance can lead to a new way of walking together. He admitted that this will require conscious work, reflection, listening, learning, and commitment but he believes it is indeed possible and in fact the calling of all God’s people. And he believes it is beginning.
Additional news item from Trent Univeristy
Thanks to Adam Hopkins, Director, First Peoples House of Learning for
partnering in this initiative
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Special thanks Fr. Glenn for your part in organizing and inviting Bishop Mark to speak on this very important issue.
Let’s be hopeful like Bishop Mark that we can all somehow be part of this much needed new direction.
So sorry I missed this opportunity.
Thank you for this Father Glenn. I attended the session on February 2nd and the only notes I wrote were the words “Hope, Opportunity and Challenge”..and “Social Transformation”. It won’t be easy, but I believe that we can learn to “walk together”.
A very meaningful comment !!! And, I agree.